“When Heaven and Earth Collide” is the name of a new podcast hosted by Alan Cross that debuted July 20, which focuses on ministry to immigrants and racial reconciliation. The series of downloadable audio interviews features a variety of Southern Baptist leaders discussing topics such as ministry partnerships, strategic initiatives, the theological foundations of migrant ministry and racial reconciliation, along with practical outreach ideas.
BR photo by Seth Brown
Matthew Hall, right, dean of Boyce College, seen here with Alan Cross, executive director of Community Development Initiatives, warned of the consequences of being faithful to the biblical vision for ministry: “You will be misunderstood. You will be misconstrued and misrepresented. You will be insulted. We’re following in the path of our Savior.”
Cross, a Southern Baptist minister, is the executive director of Community Development Initiatives, a Christian-based nonprofit organization that promotes human flourishing by developing partnerships to bring spiritual transformation to communities across the globe through the gospel of Christ. He conducted the interviews in partnership with the Evangelical Immigration Table during the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting in St. Louis, Mo.
The podcast bears the same name as his book, When Heaven and Earth Collide: Racism, Southern Evangelicals, and the Better Way of Jesus. The first three episodes are currently available, which feature Bart Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas; Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, N.C., and former president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; and Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) in Wake Forest, N.C.
More than a dozen additional interviews will be released in the coming weeks. Cross gave the Biblical Recorder a sneak peek at upcoming episodes.
In one interview, David Crosby, pastor of First Baptist Church New Orleans, describes practical ways his church ministers to Hispanic immigrants in the New Orleans area. They work with local government and law enforcement to ensure that love and justice are extended to both legal and illegal immigrants.
Crosby said, “There are churches all over the country – including rural churches – if they are willing to reach out to this population, they could see children saved, see them in their Vacation Bible Schools, see them sitting in their pews.”
Ed Stetzer, former executive director of LifeWay Research who now holds administrative and faculty positions at Wheaton College, discusses a broader vision for Southern Baptists to strategically engage ethnic groups in America.
“God is giving an opportunity for [the SBC] – that has continued to decline among those who are Anglos – to actually be able to engage other contexts and communities,” said Stetzer.
J.D. Greear emphasizes the unique opportunity churches face. “There’s something extraordinary happening,” he said. “If we let it go by, we’re going to look back with great regret.”
Bryant Wright, pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., and former SBC president, discusses some of the negative pushback his church received for ministering to refugees.
“Christians are called to minister with the love of Christ,” he said, “even if we face negative consequences.”
Bruce Ashford, SEBTS professor of theology and culture, provost and dean of faculty, explains the theological foundations for ministry to immigrants and refugees.
Ashford said of the gospel, “It reminds Christians that we are a people who are immigrants on this earth … we ought to be able to empathize.”
Matthew Hall, newly appointed dean of Boyce College, said a new generation of students see the importance of valuing both the teaching ministry of the church (in preaching) and tangible displays of racial justice in their communities.
“For Southern Baptists and like-minded evangelicals, I am hopeful. If I sensed otherwise, I wouldn’t be here,” he said, though he admitted many Americans would oppose such values in church ministry. Yet, Hall still called church leaders to remain faithful to the biblical vision for ministry. “You will be misunderstood. You will be misconstrued and misrepresented. You will be insulted. We’re following in the path of our Savior.”
Cross said, “I started this podcast to give a voice to evangelical pastors, leaders, theologians and missional practitioners across the country who are working to ‘tell a better story’ on issues related to immigrant and refugee ministry, racial reconciliation and the public witness of the church.
“I believe the better story we are to tell involves proclaiming and demonstrating the gospel and what happens when Jesus’ life and way confronts and challenges the world’s way of thinking. I want to help the local church understand the incredible opportunity before us to stand in the place of conflict and controversy and point to Jesus and His sacrificial love as the better way.”
Cross will be speaking at an upcoming event to equip Christians with “practical tools for engaging immigrants, refugees and international students.” The conference is called Reaching the Nations in North America, and it’s scheduled for Aug. 26-27 in Brentwood, Tenn.
The “When Heaven and Earth Collide” podcast is affiliated with The Roundtable Media Group. Find it on iTunes or at alancrosswrites.com.